How to Install an RV Water Heater Bypass Kit

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Your RV water heater typically holds 6 to 10 gallons of water. In order to prevent having to fill your water heater completely with antifreeze during winterization, you can install a bypass is to eliminate the water heater from the RV plumbing circuit, and so both the hot and cold water systems are tied together. This makes de-winterizing much easier.

Things You'll Need

  • Water heater bypass kit
  • PEX-specific cutting/crimping tools
  • Drain the water heater. Locate the water heater on the outside of the RV and lower the access panel. Near the top of the tank is a pressure relief valve with a lever on it. Carefully move the lever upward to release any air pressure in the tank. Now remove the drain plug at the bottom of the tank. Take care to quickly remove the plug once the last thread is reached and step to the side, otherwise you'll be in for a good soaking. The plug can sometimes have a long rod (called an anode rod) attached to it; if so, you'll have to pull it out a ways to remove it. Let the tank drain completely.

  • Locate the water heater inside your RV. Most often, it is located inside a kitchen cabinet or under a dinette. Remove any drawers and anything else blocking your access. On the back of the tank at the bottom is the cold water line, and at the top is the hot water line. These lines are generally colored blue and red respectively, but some are just white.

  • Cut the lower tube at the attachment point to the tank, leaving at least 1 inch of tubing protruding. Install a three-way valve from the kit in the lower pipe, with the handle easily accessible. Slide the nut over the tubing, rock the tubing onto the flared fitting on both ends, and tighten the nuts on the fitting. The center port of the valve should be facing toward the installation point of the second valve.

  • Install the second valve in a similar manner. Note that the valve handles should be on the opposite sides of the tubing. That is, if the valve is facing to the right, the other valve handle should be facing to the left. This ensures the valves properly bypass the water supply to the tank and are easy to operate.

  • Install a piece of PEX tubing supplied in the kit between the two center ports of the the three-way valves. Cut the tubing to length and assemble in the same manner as the valves. The ports should be facing each other, top to bottom, so the tubing is vertically oriented after installation. Other configurations my be necessary due to space issues or non-standard factory tubing connections. The bypass kit is now completed.

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